Thursday, April 25, 2013

Insurance group: Texas fertilizer plant explosion damage likely exceeds $100M

Insurance group: Texas fertilizer plant explosion damage likely exceeds $100M, The damage to surrounding homes and businesses caused by last week's deadly explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant was estimated Wednesday (April 24) to exceed $100 million.

The Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) released its estimate after speaking to numerous adjusters and agents in West, where officials and displaced residents are working to rebuild after the April 17th blast.

Mark Hanna, spokesman for the ICT, said the numbers could fluctuate as insurance adjusters continue assessing the homes, buildings and vehicles damaged by the blast.

West Mayor Pro Tem Steve Vanek estimated 350 homes were either damaged or destroyed by the West Fertilizer Co. plant explosion.

Assistant State Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner said from looking at the blast pattern, it appears most of the blast went west of the fertilizer plant toward an apartment complex that was destroyed.

The site of the explosion caused a 96-foot-wide by 10-foot-deep crater. The explosion killed at least 15 people, mostly first responders, and injured 200 others.

Investigators have not yet determined what started the fire that led to the explosion.

The private company that owns the plant had filed an emergency response plan two years ago with the Environmental Protection Agency stating that there was "no" risk of fire or explosion at the facility. The worst scenario that plant officials acknowledged at the time was the possible release of a small amount of ammonia gas into the atmosphere.

Fertilizer long has been recognized as a dangerous combustible material. One variety, ammonium nitrate, a pellet-shaped product typically shipped in large bags, caused the deadliest industrial accident in American history, the explosion of a ship at the port of Texas City in 1947, which took the lives of more than 500 people.

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